Hearst Sued for Copyright Infringement by Photographer

A complaint filed by a photographer in the Southern District of New York filed on Wednesday accuses Hearst Communications, Inc. of copyright infringement after using photographs taken by the plaintiff, Nick Onken, without his consent or receiving credit for his work.

Hearst Communications is a multinational mass media conglomerate with its principal office in New York City. The complaint explained that Hearst owns “Cosmopolitan Italia”, which reproduced the plaintiff’s work without his consent according to the complaint, as he detailed the “identicality of the copying”. The plaintiff also provided Exhibits A and B to showcase the striking similarity of both images.

According to the complaint, Nick Onken is an accomplished photographer who has worked with numerous international brands and has been published in acclaimed magazines. He registered “Subject Photography” with the Copyright Office. The plaintiff emphasized that he did not consent to the use of his Subject Photography to Cosmopolitan Italia or any company owned by Hearst Communications.

The defendants are accused of violating the Copyright Act via copyright infringement, vicarious and/or contributory copyright infringement, and the third count was brought under 17 U.S.C. Sec. 1202, which governs the integrity of copyright management information. The complaint alleged that Hearst ignored the lawful copyright owned by the plaintiff and used his images to profit off of them.

The plaintiff is seeking statutory and enhanced damages, attorney’s fees and costs, and pre-judgment interest. The plaintiff is represented by Doniger / Burroughs.